2018 MBAs To Watch: Olamide Alli, University of Virginia (Darden)

Olamide Alli

University of Virginia, Darden School of Business

Passionate advocate for social justice who cares about the intersectionality of empathy and human capital.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Lithonia, Georgia

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a sneakerhead. Here’s the definition from Urban Dictionary.

Definitionsneakerhead. 1. A person who collects limited, rare, OG, or flat out exclusive kicks. 2. A person with background knowledge of certain sneakers.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Undergrad: Spelman College, B.S. in Mathematics

Graduate: University of Georgia, Master of Arts in Teaching Math Education

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? 6th Grade Math Teacher at KIPP DC Aim Academy

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Johnson & Johnson; HRLDP (Human Resources Leadership Development Program) Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? PwC; Consultant in the People & Organizations Group

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP of Diversity (Darden Student Association)
  • Leader of Darden Stories (Darden Stories is our take on Stanford GSB’s “TALK” initiative, and its mission is to positively impact the conversations we have in and out of the classroom.)
  • Tri-Sector Leadership Fellow
  • Darden Board Fellow for African-American Teaching Fellows (Darden Board Fellows provides a unique opportunity for students to study nonprofit board governance and to learn how board service works by serving on a nonprofit board in Charlottesville. Students gain exposure to the inner workings of nonprofit boards, gain hands-on experience, and connect with the Charlottesville community)
  • Student Admissions Committee (Darden’s mission is to improve the world by developing and inspiring responsible leaders and by advancing knowledge. Students in these courses will learn practical skills that enable them to be immediately effective in their chosen career from evaluating their team to interviewing potential hires and possessing the ability to listen. The majority of the learning will occur as a result of course meetings, conducting seven interviews, and receiving ongoing feedback throughout the class.)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of catapulting the Darden Stories. During my first year at Darden, my colleague (Carlos Escalante Trevino) and I realized that students were only building surface level connections for the purposes of building their business network rather than building authentic long-lasting relationships. In order to make memorable experiences with other people you need to understand where they’re coming from and relate to them on a personal level, because authentic relationships take you the farthest. In partnership with the Darden Business Innovation and Design Club, Darden Stories was created. Darden Stories is our take on Stanford GSB’s “TALK” initiative, and its mission is to positively impact the conversations we have in-and-out of the classroom. Innovation begins with empathy, so we get to know awesome members of our community more intimately as they share with us the moments that made them who they are today. Darden Stories has transformed the dialogue between students. So instead of asking “What’s your name and what are you recruiting for,” students now ask “What’s your name and how are you feeling today?”.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time as middle school mathematics teacher, I wrote a grant that gave my former students the opportunity to attend a summer program in Arts and Media at American University. The grant made it possible for my students to receive a tuition scholarship and gave my kids the opportunity to meet and build relationships with other students from different ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds with similar interests.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I actually don’t have a favorite professor because I’ve had a lot of amazing professors during my MBA tenure.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Interpersonal Behavior. The biggest insight I gained was that in order to lead well in business, l need to connect with employees, peers, and managers in meaningful ways. This course helped me to learn strategies to build powerful and sustainable relationships with others. The business world is in continuous change and a press for speed. Therefore, sustainable relationships enable effective individual growth and will help me quickly adapt to change in my future roles.

Why did you choose this business school? he academic structure being a 100% case method was what intrigued me the most. Being a former educator, I wanted to go to an institution that had high ratings for their professors and I wanted to learn through an unconventional method.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself during the interview. The interview is where you get to show the interviewer who you are and what you could bring to the Darden community.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is business school is not participating in a Global Business Experience with my classmates. Sometimes, my practicality and fear of overspending hindered me during business school, but I plan to travel after I graduate!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I don’t have one specific classmate that I admire the most. I will say that there are a few of my classmates (who shall remain nameless) who have had some traumatic experiences during their time at Darden (i.e hospitalization, multiple deaths in the family, and struggles with mental illness). Despite their trials and tribulations, my classmates still managed to continue their education and support their peers as well.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad was the person who most influenced my decision to come to business school. After numerous conversations with my dad, he made me realize that an MBA is a degree that is highly recognizable throughout the world. It can also be used to pursue other career fields and my entrepreneurial ventures since it is highly compatible with other degree programs.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…teaching middle school mathematics or working on developing a non-profit geared towards sending students of lower income communities to residential summer programs at various universities and colleges with full funding for fees and expenses.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would find funding for global business experiences in order to ensure that all students have the opportunity to travel overseas at least once during their MBA experience with all expenses paid.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. I want to have visited 25 countries on the continent of Africa by 35.
  2. Have my school loans paid off by the age of 33 (wishful thinking).

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like to be remembered as a non-judgmental, strong-willed, and passionate woman who believed in employing empathy in all situations.

What is your favorite movie about business? Boiler Room. The biggest lesson I learned was to trust my instinct and don’t let the opportunity to make a lot of capital negatively affect the way I conduct business. Nothing is ever worth sacrificing your dignity and respect.

What would your theme song be? “Laila’s Wisdom” by Rapsody

Favorite vacation spot: I don’t have one just yet…but give me 5 years and I will!

Hobbies? I love live music (i.e music festivals, concerts), theatre, reading, and shoe shopping.

What made Olamide such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“If you met Olamide, you would immediately feel the intent and resilience in her being, the strength of her mind and the kindness in her heart. She is so intensely present that you would want to join her on any journey. Olamide would light a fire in you in the darkest days and inspire you to grab life in the way you deeply want to. She embodies the drive, deep care, and skills of a visionary and that is what makes her one of the best and brightest.

Olamide was a student of mine as soon as she arrived at Darden and then again in her second year. She turned her earlier work to translate her nontraditional background of teaching math to business school into an all-encompassing effort to provide meaning for others around her. Even in the dimmest moments, Olamide chose to create space for many in the Darden community to question, discover and create. In her first year, she brought to life the Darden Stories event, a monthly gathering where students, faculty and staff come together to share stories of vulnerability and strength. The connections made in those events with goosebumps and tears made waves that touched and energized many at Darden.

It is my pleasure to recommend Olamide, who has big things to do in life and many people to empower. I hope your path intersects with hers one day.”

Lalin Anik
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Darden School of Business, University of Virginia

 

DON’T MISS THE FULL LIST:

100 MBAS TO WATCH IN THE CLASS OF 2018